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Last night my husband turned to me and said, “huh, Gravity is still the top selling movie for a third weekend in a row.” My first thought was, well what is it really competing against? Movies all around have been fairly subpar for a few years straight. But, it’s not that Gravity is simply ‘winning’ it has higher ratings as well. On Rotten Tomatoes, for example, it has 97% rating from critics and an 88% rating from the audience.

So what does the success of this movie say about our culture? What is within the movie itself that is resonating so strongly with us?

First, one can’t even begin to comment on the film without recognizing that it is truly amazing spectacle. And, if you haven’t seen the film yet – don’t worry, I won’t list any spoilers here – I highly recommend that you see it in 3-D, and if possible, Imax. The film’s spectacle is visceral. I felt in my body the grandeur and horror of space. Yes, it’s cool to have tools float out at you, but it’s more than that – we are placed in a seat that allows us to behold something incredibly larger than us. We behold the universe – our humanity, our individuality becomes insignificant within the mass and fantastic beauty of space.

Or does it?

Perhaps sitting together watching our individuality melt away within this landscape of grandeur unites us by lifting us all above the mundane – we recognize, together how special our lives our, how amazing, against this backdrop. We all share the capacity to be nothing, gone in a moment, insignificantly shouting with no one to hear us as we flip over ourselves in an abundant pool of blackness and silence. Our shared fragility, juxtaposed against this horrific grandeur, unites us.

And….rather than give up amongst the horror and struggle…we choose to go on. As Vladimir says at the end of Waiting for Godot, “Yes, let’s go.” In the face of our insignificance, we say, “yes, let’s go.” We go on. We fight.

I think this is what is ultimately resonating with the audience – amongst the growth of our own technological feats that ultimately won’t save us against a backdrop of this horrific, beautiful nothingness – we still fight for our lives. For what else do we have?

That is why when the credits began to role at the end of the film I said to myself, wow, she’s an existential hero. Similar to Liam Neeson’s character in The Grey, she continued to fight in what seems like an obviously already lost battle.



One comment on “Gravity

  1. “Gravity” was such an interesting idea for a movie. When I first saw the trailer, I thought they were making a film for Ray Bradbury’s short story “Kaleidoscope,” and I was sure that it would flop: “Kaleidoscope” doesn’t have the fight for survival you noted in “Gravity,” but assumes that death is a given, allowing four astronauts to continue to speak after their rocket explodes and they drift apart. They ponder the reality of their mortality, and the story resides almost entirely in the cerebral. It would never have transferred to the screen well.

    “Gravity” on the other hand, as well as “The Grey,” use the most powerful conflict human beings can face: survival. How much higher can stakes get? I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I look forward to it and the tenacity of its characters. I think the fight despite everything saying you won’t succeed is a beautiful metaphot for the human condition. You don’t ‘win’ life, it’s a series of fights, and at the end of it you WILL lose, but you’ll spend your life fighting. Perhaps the fight is in vain and without purpose, but it might also be that the will to fight despite knowing that you can’t win it all IS the purpose.

    Do I think the movie was aiming to be that deep a philosophical meditation on life, purpose, and the existential vacuum of space? Eh, maybe not, but does it matter?

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